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Darren Beach Interview

This week we continue our competition to win copies of Darren Beach’s handy pocket-sized guide, London’s Cemeteries.

Darren’s book is the perfect companion to Brompton Cemetery and many of the other London cemeteries featured in the Deceased Online database. Our first winners, Carlos Amenguel Jackson from Mallorca and Rosemary Rowley from Macclesfield, were delighted to receive their prize copies. We hope to be adding the final set of Brompton records next week.

Romanesque statues in Brompton Cemetery
Recently, I caught up with Darren to find out more about his interest in cemeteries. He told me, ‘I've always been interested in London - my home town - and especially the awe-inspiring feel you can sometimes get from the traces left by its previous inhabitants. I don't really mean artefacts in museums, more the 'living' stuff in the streets with which we can look at social history, such as old railway lines, Roman ruins, and of course cemeteries. I'd say my interest in the latter truly began when I first lived in north London and would visit Highgate Cemetery, with its park-like calm, its famous names, amazing untamed wild and maze-like twists and turns.’

Darren likes the monuments of Kensal Green Cemetery, pictured here in a page from his book, London Cemeteries.

 Although Darren is a fan of Brompton Cemetery, he is more drawn to some of the other Magnificent Seven cemeteries. He says, ‘Abney Park [in Stoke Newington] is a wonderfully wild landscape, while the gothic splendour of Kensal Green's monuments and catacombs are appealing too.’

Darren’s favourite monument of all London’s cemeteries is the stunning mausoleum of Sir Richard Burton, the explorer, in Mortlake. Darren says, ‘It's a representation of a desert tent billowing in the wind, with allusions to several different religions in the design, and never fails to amaze.’

But the most surprising fact Darren discovered during his research for the book was the discovery of the Cross Bones graveyard in the early ’90s, near Borough station, during excavations for the Jubilee Line extension. Darren told me that this was a lost medieval paupers' cemetery containing the remains of plague victims and 'poors and whores'. The team who uncovered the site found Roman artefacts which had lain undiscovered for centuries. Now there are always ribbons, flowers and decorations on the gates in remembrance of these long-lost dead.

Besides the historical aspect of London’s cemeteries, Darren loves their untamed nature. For wildlife, he recommends Ladywell and Brockley cemetery: ‘It's big enough to count as a nature walk, has a vast number of fascinating tombstones with stories to tell, and also some interesting small animals wandering about. It's slightly off the beaten track and can thus be beautifully peaceful. Also, and partly as it's local to me, I love the zen-like calm of the grassy open spaces of Golders Green Crematorium; on a sunny day it's a wonderful place to be.’ 

For your chance to win on of two copies of Darren’s book up for grabs this week, let us know the answers to the following two questions:

Q1.  2013 is the 150th anniversary of probably the world's greatest sporting publication founded by an English cricketer.  That cricketer now lies buried in Brompton Cemetery. Name either the annual publication or the cricketer's name? 

Q2.  Who are the father and son Victorian civil engineers buried at Kensal Green Cemetery?  The son built some of the most famous structures and engineering projects of the 19th century. 

Last week’s winners will be announced on our Facebook page. Congratulations to you both!

The winning answers to last week’s questions are:

Q1.  In 1999, Time magazine named this person as one of the top 100 most important people of the 20th Century.  She was leader of the British suffragette movement.  What were her first and 2nd names (correct spelling please)? 
A. Emmeline Pankhurst.  

Q.  Buried in Highgate Cemetery, what was the pen name of the celebrated novelist Mary Ann Cross? 
A.  George Eliot.

The grave of Emmeline Pankhurst in Brompton Cemetery

 How to Enter and Competition Rules
  • entries by no later than midnight on Wednesday 12 June 2013
  • email your entries to: with heading: 'Pocket guide competition'
  • entrants should provide full contact information including full postal address and at least one telephone number
  • only one entry per week per person/email address
  • each entrant can only win the competition once and win one book
  • winning entries will be drawn each week and the winners notified
  • judges decision is final
  • the prizes will be sent to the winners by post as soon as possible
  • the answers to each set of two questions will be published in the blog on the following Friday


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